Who is in Your Community?

The Mayor’s director of economic development stood at the center of the room as the facilitator carefully arranged community stakeholders in a constellation around his orbit. The exercise was designed to assist the city’s leadership to better understand the priorities of their community partners. One by one, workshop participants were assigned roles and placed somewhere in proximity to the center either facing toward or away from the leader. If it wasn’t already clear before the exercise, there would soon be no question about which members of the community had power and influence in the city’s future.

Curiously, the city leaders’ most coveted stakeholder was positioned outside of the inner circle in the exercise. Although the goal was to become a magnet to attract new residents to the undiscovered beauty, vibrancy, and charm of this city, little investment had been made in discovering what made living and staying in this city potentially attractive to newcomers. Was it the weather…the arts & culture…the school system…the friendly tax incentives for business…the easy access and lack of traffic congestion…the safety and security of the neighborhoods?

What if you scaled this exercise down to your personal community? What purpose would you place at the center? Perhaps health and safety dominate your priorities. Maybe creativity and innovation call most loudly. For some, it’s financial opportunity while, for others, it’s the chance to make a difference. Whatever your calling, think about the people who should take up residence in your inner circle. Who determines their closeness to the center?

Family, friends, and professional colleagues are all added to our circles with intent. Consider what might happen if they each had the power to choose their contribution to the shared purpose and their position in the constellation. Healthy and strong communities begin with this question.

Who’s in your community?